How to Break Through Plateaus
At some point in your training career, you will hit a plateau. These sticking points are inevitable to a certain degree and tend to show up at varying times. The plateau is something that will always puzzle people and can often be defeating. However, if you work to understand why it’s even happening in the first place, you’ll be able to create a work-around-solution.
When you train, run, lift weights, or exercise in general your body is adapting. It’s adapting to create what is called homeostasis, or a stable state in which everything is normal. When you first start exercising, you’ll notice that you make changes rapidly. The stimulus being provided is new and creates change at a much more rapid pace. However, over time this stimulus becomes not-so-new, and your body adapts. If you never change the stimulus to keep driving adaption, then you’ll be stuck sitting at a plateau.
In this post, you’re going to learn a little more about the variables that affect your progress as well as some ways in which you can adjust them to see change. Even some small tweaks can lead you to smash through any plateau you may be stuck with.
Adjust Your Variables
There are multiple variables that go into seeing changes within the gym. They’re all needed in different amounts depending on the person and can be totally different. There is no one stop solution for breaking a plateau, and it will almost always come down to experimenting and finding what needs to be changed for you. With that being said, the best place to start is by picking one variable to change at a time.
To start making these changes, you need to assess where you’re at currently. Are you really doing as much as you think you are? Are you really getting in the amount of food that you feel like you are? The more accurate you can be about right NOW, the better you can make the judgment on what needs to change.
Once you can pin this down, you can choose where to look next. You give the changes some time to take effect, and then you adjust from here. If nothing is changing, then you know there is more to look at.
It’s important that you don’t try to do more than one thing at a time. This way you never feel overwhelmed on the subject. Slow and steady will always yield the best results.
Now, let’s look at some of the variables you can look at changing to break your plateau.
This one may be obvious, but it’s one of the most important. Most of the changes that you see in the gym are going to come down to your diet. If you’re training hard, but eating garbage, you won’t see as great of results. This should go to say that making some changes to your diet can be a way of breaking a plateau.
Depending on your goal, you should look at your caloric intake. If you aren’t losing weight, then you might be eating too much. If you aren’t gaining size, you could be eating too little. This can all come down to your daily intake of food, and sometimes this is all the change you need.
You could also make sure that you’re eating enough protein. The recovery you need can be super dependent on the amount of protein you consume. Therefore, you may need more to push past any sticking points.
Physical activity plays a huge role in your progress, especially for weight loss. Now, you may think that more time with the weights is the answer. However, that little bit of cardio can actually make some huge differences. If you’re stuck at a certain weight, and doing the same cardio routine, it may be time to kick it up a notch. Instead of 10 minutes of steady-state walking, you could take it up to 20 minutes. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s going to go a long way in your total activity for the day. Even just 10 minutes of extra walking can help you break through.
If you’re still working out at the same intensity as when you started, then it may be time to make some changes. As you progress in the gym, you get stronger and more capable of handling stress. This is your body’s way of fighting for that homeostasis. Therefore, if you aren’t seeing any more changes in the gym, you may have adapted to your current intensity. A simple change in your routine can be the difference maker, otherwise you’ll remain without much progress.
Linear progression is a great way to approach this. This concept involves slowly increasing the reps and/or weight of your working sets. For example, if you were benching 105lbs one week, you would increase this to 110lbs the next week. You would continue to do this over time as a way of constantly pushing the needle. This is a simple, but effective way of driving some change that could smash a plateau.
You may be doing everything else right, but just need a little edge. Once you have the basics down, there will come a time when you need an extra 5%. This is where supplementation can come into play. Now, this doesn’t have to be fancy, and even the simplest things can help. For example, creatine can help you to build more muscle and strength when you feel stuck. Creatine helps to boost workout intensity and stamina, which allows for more reps/weight. With this simple change of stimulus, you might just push through a sticking point.
In addition to creatine, you could bring protein powder and pre-workout supplements into the mix. Protein powder is going to help you with recovery, as we discussed before. The more protein you get, the more you can recover from your workouts. Pre-workout is going to help you get those extra reps that you might not have gotten before. Those one or two extra reps add up over time and can help drive adaptation for breaking plateaus.
Remember, get the basics down first before you put your energy into supplements. If everything else is going well, but you still feel stuck, then it would be time to start diving into a supplement routine.
Plateaus are extremely defeating. However, making some simple changes to your routine can help you break free. Even just a slight change to your workouts or what you’re eating can be the difference maker. All it’s going to take is a willingness to experiment and listen to your body. If the first change you try doesn’t work, move on to something different. Eventually, you’ll nail down what you need in the situation, and you’ll be on your way to seeing changes in the gym again. Change up some variables and keep things moving, that’s about all there is to it!